Today I awoke to news of continuing devastation by several Atlantic hurricanes, a deadly 8.2 earthquake in Mexico, and tsunami warnings for the Pacific coast of Central America.
Forces of nature like these transfix children. Their natural curiosity makes them eager to know and understand more. We parents, however, need to monitor the ceaseless stream of media that bombards our children through radio headlines, television reports, cell phone alerts, and internet streaming.
The best way to strike a balance between satisfying a child’s curiosity and navigating media is through you. At any age, your child watches and learns by your example. Your influence, whether you are a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, is always the most important one.
For example, it matters how you explain and interpret natural disasters for your children. Whether you are experiencing the disaster firsthand or live far away, I think that the late Fred Rogers’ wise approach works best.
To build on “always look for the helpers” talk with your child about what kind of helpers live in your community. Encourage your child to draw pictures and write stories about what they see and read, because the arts provide a unique resource for expressing thought and understanding.
Your older children may decide to collect money and send a donation to areas struggling to cope. Ask an older child to explain to a younger one why money can be a better way to help, rather than sending clothing or blankets.
When you invest time in teaching your children social-emotional skills like empathy and understanding, you are helping to create a better world. It always begins at home with you.